No matter how long you've been together, if the relationship isn't going well then it's really hard to know when you should actually break up. You want to give your relationship every chance you can to do well and for things to get back on track—but, let's be honest, you don't want to waste your time either.
But no matter how long you've been with someone, if you're on the brink of a break up, one last push to make it work is worth it. "If you are about to break up you have nothing to lose. You might as well tell your partner what isn't working," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein says. "You never know—they might be able to respond." Here are the 5 things Aimee suggests you can do before you break up:
1. Lay it all out there
"Talk about it," Aimee says. And don't just tell them something's bothering you. You need to tell them the truth, that you're on the verge of breaking up with them. Sure, it's really scary—but they need to realize what the stakes are. Often we talk in general terms of being unhappy or struggling. It may be true, but that doesn't give your partner a real sense of where you're at.
2. Be specific
You need to let them know exactly what you're struggling with. "Explain what isn't working for you. Ask for what you need." If you just say you're unhappy, your partner won't know what needs to change. If you're struggling with communication, say that to them. If you need more quality time, need to feel like you're more of a team, find it difficult when they work late five nights a week—whatever it is, saying it is the first step towards finding a compromise.
3. Ask for help
Getting feedback from friends and family can be helpful, but sometimes you need to go even bigger. "Consider seeing a couple's counselor," Aimee suggests. Obviously if it's been a short relationship, it may not feel worth the effort. That's totally fine! But if you have years under your belt and a shared life together, you may feel like it's worth trying everything to help save it. It's your call.
4. Give them room to talk (and really listen)
Rarely are unhappy relationships just one person's fault. If you're going to lay out all of the things that are bothering you, then you need to really be open to hearing it come back. Before you break up, ask if there's anything you can do to improve and meet your partner in the middle. There may be a lot of things that you're doing that are also hurting the relationship, so you need to be just as ready to change as you expect them to be.
5. Offer clean slates
You need to get everything off your chest to clear the way for a clean slate. Aimee stresses that you should "be open and honest" and then you need to actually give your partner a chance to make things right. As much as it can be incredibly difficult, and even painful, to let it go, it's the only way to move on. Your relationship isn't going to succeed if you're constantly bringing up old baggage and waiting for your partner to fuck up. So before you break up, make sure you've given it a real shot.
It's a fine line between wasting your time in a relationship that is going nowhere, and giving your partner a second chance. The best way to decide if you need to break up is to really be honest, while being open to criticizing yourself. If that doesn't work, after you've given your relationship a real chance to succeed, it may be time to call it quits. There are better things out there.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.